Automotive News - July 2013

Chrysler News

Since Fiat partnered up with Chrysler a few years ago, we've been expecting some changes in the U.S. manufacturer's range. Some of these changes will probably wait a little longer according to The Detroit News newspaper. Firstly, Dodge Avenger production is expected to continue until the end of 2015. There have been rumours that the Avenger will be withdrawn in order to focus on the Chrysler 200 sedan, but new information leaking out of Detroit has us believing that there will be a new generation of the Avenger on display next January. This information is coming from sources in the part supplier end of the industry, but Chrysler is keeping quiet as of now. These same part suppliers have also mentioned that the Jeep Wrangler will survive throughout the middle of 2018, another five years of production is scheduled for this off-road driving icon. The Detroit News says that an overhaul is scheduled for mid 2016.

Well-Equipped Police

t's never fun to see flashing lights come on right behind our car when on the road. We can, however, be impressed by the high-tech team behind these cars. All U.S. manufacturers have special versions of their models created especially for the police. At Ford, the Crown Victoria, which was the basis for the Police Interceptor has disappeared. The new Police Interceptor is now created on the same platform as the Taurus, which is the largest sedan now produced by Ford. Several engines are available, but we'd like to point out that there is more than just a V8 available. The 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 generates 365 horses, which is 115 more than what the previous 4.6-litre V8 offered. The 3.7-litre V6 and it's 305 horsepower is standard. In addition, all models are all-wheel drive. As an added boost for us taxpayers, the V6 slurps up less fuel than the V8.

2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel

Who says that a Porsche can't be good on gas? The 2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel gets surprising fuel efficiency numbers, and it's the only diesel Porsche that North Americans can get their hands on. It's been available in Europe since 2009. Under it's hood is a turbocharged and intercooled 3-litre V6 diesel engine that kicks out a respectable 240 horses and 406 lb-foot of torque mated to an eight speed transmission.. After all, it's still a Porsche. All that and it only uses 20 MPG in the city and 29 on the highway. You'll also find the same engine in the Volkswagen Touareg and Audi's Q7 and the upcoming Q5. This SUV is much more lighter and responsive than the Tourareg or Q7 though. The engine is built by Audi and then shipped over to Porsche. The Cayenne is an SUV that drives like a sports car. Diesels aren't usually known for their Porsche-like performance, but they somehow pull it off with the 2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel. Those two extra gears make a big difference.

2015 Honda Fit Hybrid

Details are beginning to emerge on the 2015 Honda Fit Hybrid. Racking up the best fuel economy numbers among Japanese hybrids, people are getting more interested in the Honda Fit Hybrid, especially with it's recent 35 percent bump in fuel economy numbers. The Honda Fit has always had a following, somewhat unusual in it's segment. It's always been innovative; remember those accordion-style folding seats? and the 2015 Honda Fit Hybrid is no exception. It's the first Honda hybrid with Sport Hybrid Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive (i-DCD), which consists of a 7-speed dual clutch mated to a 22-kw electric motor. The dual clutch transmission in this car can completely uncouple the gas motor from the electric, permitting the car to be driven in electric-only mode. It's part of Honda's Earth Dreams line-up of next generation powertrains, meant to develop better gas mileage results. An Intelligent Power Unit with a lithium-ion battery is also in place. The Fit's regenerative braking system also works to improve fuel economy.

2014 Porsche Boxster

Always luxurious and a thrill to drive, the 2014 Porsche Boxster continues to deliver. It's even relatively cheap. Porsche's Boxster is one of the most popular convertibles on the planet. No longer thought to be the entry-level Porsche, this car performs. It's design has matured, it's interior invokes Italian car design. It's desireable, and not only for it's price tag. Last year, the Porsche Boxster was completely redesigned. This year, not much has changed, it really didn't need much. Some fresh paint colours and an upgraded optional sound system. The 2014 Boxster's 2.7-litre 6-cylinder is fuel efficient, getting 20 MPG in the city and 30 on the highway is pretty good for a base model. Riding on 18 inch wheels and complete with a power-operated soft top filled with sound deadening material, the car is stuffed with most of the bells and whistles you'd expect to find in any new car these days.

2014 Land Rover Range Rover

The "Range" as it is commonly called, doesn't get a complete overhaul very often. Born in 1970, the second generation did not arrive until 1994. It took another eight years to see the third generation in 2002. This year, for the 2014 model year, the fourth generation of Range Rover comes to life. The Range Rover sits at the top of the Land Rover range. Priced at more than $100,000, it's not surprising that few are encountered on the road. The 2014's new shape is more refined, while maintaining the robust style, which is the Range Rover's trademark. The roof has been lowered by 20 millimetres, making it the most aerodynamic model to date. As the Range Rover is not only a luxury vehicle, but also a multi-purpose truck, it's commanding driver positioning has been designed so that the driver feels in control and confident in the face of the elements of nature, or chaotic traffic. The upward visibility has been improves, thus improving the visibility of rolling hills, signs and traffic lights.

High End Steering Management For the Infinit Q50

Infiniti's Q50 has not yet hit dealerships, but the tech specs alone already have us wanting to get our hands on one and drive it. The new Q50 is an engineering marvel, benefiting from Nissan's version of "steer by wire" technology, called Independent Control Steering Technology which was inspired by the latest developments in aviation. For the first time, the driver can choose the feel of the steering, thanks to DAS (Direct Adaptive Steering), which comes standard on some Q50 models. Triple world champion Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel, of the Infiniti Red Bull racing team contributed to the settings tweaks of this new steering system and helped to optimize the performance and behaviour of the Q50. Note that Sebastian Vettel is also Infiniti's Performance Director. DAS operates by transferring data pulses to an electric motor that instantly reacts, essentially forging an electronic connection rather than a mechanical one between the front wheels and the steering wheel. The driver's wheel motions are electronically transmitted to the car's front wheels. There is no mechanical loss, the steering is more precise and driving vibrations disappear.

2014 Subaru Outback

Subaru had a brilliant idea back in 1995 when it launched the Outback, an alll-terrain version of the Legacy wagon. At that time, SUVs were becoming increasingly popular, and Subaru did not have the financial resources to develop a brand new type of vehicle. Thus was born the Legacy Outback. This more robust model that carries the name of an Australian desert region is now a separate model. In 2014, the Subaru Outback is still a viable alternative to traditional SUVs, and handier too. The Outback is distinguished by it's standard famous symmetrical full time AWD, an exceptional feature for our Canadian winters. While it's 220 mm ground clearance is higher than that of many large SUVs and crossovers, it's access level remains low.

2014 Porsche Cayman

These days Porsche makes it's money from four door sedans and SUVs. Compared to their higher end products, these are relatively cheap and accessible. The German automaker is about to release an even cheaper SUV soon too. That's why the 2014 Porsche Cayman is such a pleasant surprise. Not only is it affordable, it remains true to Porsche's heritage. Driving purists will be thrilled to know that unlike the 911 Turbo or GT3, the new Cayman is available with a stick. This two-door coupe's 2.7 litre 6 cylinder engine that sits behind the driver churns out 275 horses and 213 lbs-ft of torque. Boasting a six speed manual gearbox, this rear-wheel drive sports car goes zero to 60 in a mere 5.4 seconds and restarts if you stall it. Pretty good for a $53,000 car that growls.

Carbon Fibre Wheels

In all things motive whether it be aviation, boating, cycling or the automotive industry, lighter means faster. Add strength to that mix and you have an unbeatable equation. Over the last couple of decades, carbon fibre has trickled down from the racing industry to the mass market. It's now showing up in sport sedans, particularly in the cockpit where it adds an interesting aesthetic as well as function and form. It's still an expensive material, so it's generally found in vehicles that can support the additional cost, or where weight is of significant importance. This high strength polymer is now finding it's way into aftermarket parts. In particular, wheels. Borrowing techniques from the aircraft industry, an Australian company called Carbon Revolution has developed a revolutionary product, one that has the potential to shake up the entire industry, the world's first one-piece carbon fibre wheels. Originally built for the Porsche 911, these wheels deliver gains in fuel economy, acceleration and cornering. Tenths of seconds can be shaved off a lap. Efficiency gains of four percent have been suggested.

Three Million Prius Later

The Toyota Prius is the mascot of the hybrid industry. Many people could not list 3 different hybrid models off the top of their head, but they all know the Prius. It's become synonymous with hybrid. Toyota has just announced that worldwide sales of the gasoline-electric hybrid have hit the three million mark. Three million of the quirky, yet iconic cars have been sold since it's 1997 introduction to Japan, and exported to the rest of the world three years later. This symbolic level of sales applies to the original Prius. When other Prius family members such as the Prius C or Aqua rechargeable are factored in, the numbers actually hit 3.7 million units. Across the entire Toyota line-up of vehicles, over five million hybrids have been sold worldwide to date.

Van Wars

We often talk about competition in the compact and subcompact segments. In 2014 vehicle wars move to another level: full size vans. It wasnt so long ago that to buy a van meant one was limited to the Ford Econoline, or GM Express. In 2014 we're talking five different competitors in this well targeted market. A few years ago Dodge became a challenger when they began distributing the Mercedes Sprinter. Following the divorce of the two companies, Sprinter fans moved to Mercedes dealerships, who is selling them in droves. The Sprinter is very large and offers a 188 hp BlueTec diesel engine.

Volkswagen Amarok

Pickup trucks are hot right now in North America. So hot, that Volkswagen is seriously considering entering the game, and bringing it's popular Amarok to Canada. So far most of the focus has been on big trucks, and the small and midsize segments haven't seen much action lately. Ford's Ranger and Ram's Dakota are being retired, and the others haven't seen a refresh for a while. Maybe a new entry into the market will shake things up a bit in the segment. Volkswagen says that they are investigating, but are proceeding very cautiously and slowly. Part of their evaluations include discussions with dealers, who are gauging their customer's interest in the pickup.

2014 Maserati Ghibli: Preview

Downshifting a little into the mass market, Maserati has thrown it's hat into the lucrative E-segment of mid-size sports sedans with the all new Ghibli. Positioned against Audi's A6, the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Maserati is counting on the Ghibli to change both the manufacturer's fortunes, but it's business model too. The 2014 Maserati Ghibli is a very important vehicle for the company. Reintroducing their brand to North American buyers in a big way, Maserati is hoping to attract tens of thousands of new buyers with the Ghibli. Last year, the Italian company produced a modest 6,200 units. With the launch of the Ghibli, Maserati has a goal of 50,000 units by 2015. The company is aggressively building it's dealer market over here.

Ford Super Duty Trucks

Trucks are hot right now, and manufacturers are happy to meet the demand. After all, truck customers are the most brand loyal, and the margins on trucks are much higher than those of cars. The pick up truck segment offers more choices than any car segment does. With the upturn in the U.S. economy, manufacturers are working furiously to get more people into trucks, and truck owners into newer models. When it comes to trucks, bigger is always better and not just for testosterone fuelled bragging rights. Bigger trucks can do more. They can slog through tougher conditions, carry more weight and pull thousands of pounds behind them. For those who simply need more truck, Ford has a line of Super Duty pickups, of which one is certain to get the job done.

VW Claims Guinness Fuel Economy Record

Beating any hybrid on the road today, the Volkswagen Passat TDI Clean Diesel just entered the Guinness Book of World Records, setting the record for lowest fuel consumption for a non-hybrid car, gas burning (non-electric) car. Volkswagen is thrilled, what automaker on the planet wouldn't want to land these bragging rights? Getting an incredible 78 mpg (about km per litre), the Passat TDI Clean Diesel beat the previous record by about 10 mpg. It also beat the hybrid vehicle record by more than 13 mpg. Wayne Gerdes, an automotive journalist famous for hypermiling drove the Passat with electronics engineer Bob Winger as his co-pilot. Hypermiling is the art of finding unconventional ways to increase a vehicle's fuel economy, often through driving techniques, some of which may be disruptive to other motorists. The two set out from Volkswagen of America's headquarters in Virginia on June 7. After covering 8122 miles and all 48 states, they returned on June 14th. The pair used only 104.94 gallons (397.4 litres) of fuel during the entire trip. Gerdes was also the driver when the hybrid record of 64.5 mpg was set in a Kia Optima Hybrid last year. The team's goal this time was to beat the previous diesel vehicle record of 68 mpg.

2014 Nissan Rogue

Last April Nissan announced that it would be launching five new models over the course of fifteen months. So far we've seen new versions of the Altima, Pathfinder, Sentra and Versa Note. That leaves the Nissan Rogue compact crossover set for an overhaul. The first generation of the Nissan Rogue was introduced on the market in 2008. Since then, the small SUV has managed to make it's way without stumbling, while attracting the favour of an extensive, though more demanding audience. As such, the company needed to balance sales volume against increasingly aggressive competition in terms of style, equipment and price. Nissan had no choice but to provide it's fans with a next-gen Rogue that is more modern, capable of responding to newer needs while sticking to the realities of the current automotive market. The Rogue's sales are second only to the Altima in Nissan's line-up.

Shelby Turns It's Sights To The Raptor

Pickup trucks are hot right now and that's making everybody giddy. Rising truck sales are a pretty good indicator of an improving economy, which pleases all of us, and pick up trucks have the best margins for manufacturers. As the U.S. economy gears up, all of the manufacturers are upping their truck game with new models, some of which are truly impressive. Buyers feel safe investing in new trucks these days, and since they may have it for a while, they're looking to have every itch scratched. Trucks aren't just for work anymore, most serve a dual purpose as daily drivers, and so manufacturers are upping the luxe and comfort factors significantly in the newest crop. It's not all about comfort though. Boys will be boys, and some still want to have the coolest, toughest and most awesome truck around. The Ford Raptor has served this niche for the last few years- it's fun, fearsome and more than capable. It's even comfortable- I sat in the back seat of one the other day and was pleasantly surprised.

GM Planning Entry Level Corvette?

While GM isn't confirming anything yet, sources are claiming that an entry level Chevrolet Corvette is in the works. At the moment, the iconic sports car's average customer is a 50-something male. GM is hoping to broaden the car's appeal with a sub- $50,000 sticker price. The less expensive model would likely make an appearance in mid to late 2015, about two years after the long awaited release of the Stingray, the first new Corvette seen in nine years. This may be a sign that Chevy's Corvette brand is starting to think out of the box, and might capitalize from the newfound interest in the brand generated by the new Stingray. Expanding the line-up and range of appeal wouldn't be a bad thing at all. The Corvette is celebrating it's 60th anniversary this year, and the new seventh generation C7 Stingray is attracting some serious interest, even winning the highly coveted "Best In Show" award at the 2013 Detroit International Auto Show. It also pulled in awards for "Best Curves" and "Sexiest Car."

Chrysler Up In June

Chrysler is celebrating after particularly good sales figures tallied at the end of June. The company is still enjoying the longest growth streak in it's history, an impressive 43 consecutive months of year over year sales growth. Every month continues to be better than the period twelve months ago. Chrysler sold 26,222 vehicles during the month of June, which is an increase of 11 percent over sales figures from June 2012. When those numbers are limited to passenger cars, the auto giant sold 46 percent more passenger cars than it did one year ago. Also in June, Chrysler set an all time sales record for it's popular Jeep Wrangler. Jeep brand sales were up 29 percent, which is no surprise thanks to the eagerly anticipated new Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Equine Rumours From Ford

We already know that Ford has a few special somethings up it's sleeve to commemorate it's 50th anniversary of the Mustang next year. The much loved muscle car was introduced on April 17, 1964 at the NY World's Fair. Coincidentally, the final press preview day at next year's NY auto show happens to be April 17, 2014, which leads us to believe that Ford will unveil it's new toys on that day. Most of Ford's standard new 2015 Mustangs will be seen before April, but we're pretty sure that they intend to save the good stuff until then. We'll see the generic and GT forms of the next-gen Mustang, but we're talking good stuff like the 2016 Shelby GT350- the newest SVT (Special Vehicle Team) Mustang.

Backup Camera Regs Pushed Back

U.S. regulators are delaying their requirement for backup cameras to be installed in all new cars. Originally required by an automotive safety law, signed by President George W. Bush in 2010, the deadline has been delayed several times. The deadline for compliance has been pushed back to 2015, from the 2014 model year. The rule was named after a boy from New York, who's father backed over him accidentally in 2008. The National Highway Transportation Safety Association says that every year an average of 292 people die as a result of cars accidentally backing over them, generally the elderly and children. Half of those deaths could be prevented by requiring back up cameras to be installed in vehicles.

2013 Volkswagen Golf TDI

Looking to move up from an econobox and into something a little more grown up without sacrificing convenient features like a hatchback and fuel economy? The 2013 Volkswagen Golf may be just that thing that announces your graduation from college kid to full blown adult, without giving up the fun. Don't confuse the 5 door with being a family hauler, taller vehicles are better suited to childseat duties. We're all looking to save money (or the environment), so fuel economy is important to most of us. After a bunch of crappy hybrids flooding the market in the last couple of years, it's nice to see a viable diesel option. Long gone are the days where diesel cars were smelly, smoky and hard to start in the winter.

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